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Idaho Woman Wins: U.S. Army Corps Gun Ban Unconstitutional

Oct 14, 2014 | by William Perry Pendley

DENVER, CO.  An Idaho woman who is barred from carrying a functional firearm for self-defense when she visits federal recreational facilities prevailed today with the ruling of an Idaho federal district court that the federal government ban on firearms violates the Second Amendment.  Elizabeth E. Morris of Nez Perce County is licensed to carry a concealed weapon, regularly carries a concealed weapon, and often seeks to recreate on lands managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Because Corps of Engineers regulations ban functional firearms, even while camped in tents, Ms. Morris is subject to criminal prosecution if she attempts to exercise her Second Amendment rights.  Alan C. Baker, a firearms instructor and a resident of Idaho’s Latah County, is a co-plaintiff in the suit, which was filed in August 2013 in Idaho federal district court.  The Corps of Engineers did not respond to requests from attorneys for Ms. Morris and Mr. Baker, Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), seeking an exemption from its firearm ban, a ban that has not changed since the landmark Heller ruling.

“We are delighted the court’s ruled that, ‘The regulation banning the use of handguns on Corps’ property by law-abiding citizens for self-defense purposes violates the Second Amendment,’” said William Perry Pendley.  

The Corps of Engineers operates public parks and recreational facilities at water resource development projects under the control of the Department of the Army and thus is the nation’s largest provider of water-based outdoor recreation.  It administers 422 lake and river projects in 43 states, spanning 12 million acres, encompassing 55,000 miles of shoreline and 4,500 miles of trails, and including 90,000 campsites and 3,400 boat launch ramps.  Waters under its control constitute 33 percent of all U.S. freshwater fishing.

Ms. Morris was issued an emergency license by the Nez Perce County Sheriff to carry a concealed handgun in 2012 due to threats and physical attacks against her by a former neighbor.  She regularly carries a handgun for self-defense.  She uses Corps-administered public lands near the Snake River in Lewiston, Idaho, to boat with friends, regularly walks the Corps-administered paths in the area with her dog and/or her family, and must travel across Corps-administered public lands to reach Hells Gate State Park.

Mr. Baker is a NRA-Certified Home Firearm Safety, Personal Protection In The Home, Rifle, Pistol, and Shotgun Instructor, is a Utah Concealed Firearms Instructor, is licensed to carry a concealed handgun in Idaho, Utah, Oregon, and Arizona and regularly carries a handgun for self-defense.  A life-long outdoorsman, he regularly recreates on Corps-managed lands in Idaho, including Dworshak Dam and Reservoir on the North Fork Clearwater River.

Mountain States Legal Foundation, founded in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system.  Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.

For more information:  Morris v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


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